Purpose is the raison d’etre for you as an individual, or for your organization. It needs to be stated in simple, plain English in a way that people can connect to and be excited about. And there are 3 letters that can elevate them to even greater power.
Let’s start with organizational shared purpose. In yesterday’s post, I quoted this HBR article that said that corporate shared purpose exists “to inspire your staff to do good work for you, find a way to express the organization’s impact on the lives of customers, clients, students, patients — whomever you’re trying to serve. Make them feel it.”
So what are some actual examples?
Here is Nintendo’s purpose:
The only modifications I’d make to these is to start with a gerund (ending in ‘ing’) rather than ‘to do something’. For example, if I’d worked with Starbucks in crafting their purpose it would have been ‘Inspiring and nurturing the human spirit…’ instead of ‘to inspire and nurture’.
Well, our brains work in pictures, not words. For example, if I asked you how many windows are in your home, how would you get your answer? You’d visualize it and walk through your home.
Well, if you say ‘to inspire and nurture’, your brain makes a still picture to represent the words. If you say ‘inspiring and nurturing’, you create a movie in your mind’s eye, and a movie is far more compelling than a simple picture.
Similarly, when I work with my clients on connecting with their inner core purpose on a personal level, I it usually comes down to a couple of words, and I challenge my clients to transform the first word into a gerund. This, instead of saying that their purpose is ‘to help others’ or ‘to make connections’ or ‘to heal conflict’, I challenge them to play with ‘helping others’, ‘making connections’ or ‘healing conflict’. In a quarter of a century of doing this work, every single person has found the gerund version much more compelling. And at its heart, it’s not the words that are important – it’s the connection to the inner feeling of purpose. The words are simply the label – or the key to unlock all of that.
Whether you’re talking about your business or your personal life, there’s one common ingredient to success most people miss. Everyone focuses on what they do – not on the why.
How many organizations have mission statements that are perfectly suited to put an insomniac to sleep? “We strive to be a world class provider of (insert business here) pursuing excellence and always putting our people and customers first” Yawn.
How many of you focus on goals or your next career move and have to work like crazy to motivate yourself and drive yourself to get everything done to accomplish that, burning out any passion or joy along the journey?
Both of those approaches, whether corporate or personal, are focused on what you do, not why. What you do has no passion, no drive, no motivation in and of itself. That’s why you have to motivate yourself or your team or your organization.
So how do you do anything differently? Well here’s a revolutionary thought. What if you started with your motivation, your raison d’etre, and then drawing your goals from there so your motivation, and the drive of your team in an organization are implicitly built in to whatever situation arises?
It sounds pretty radical, but if you look at the organizations that are most successful, they are the ones that focus on their purpose first, not on what they do. Same with people. The ones who consistently live fuller and more meaningful lives are those who live on-purpose.
Purpose is not just about you, whether you’re talking about yourself or your organization – it’s about how you make a difference in the world. That’s something that can set you on fire for your personal purpose. It’s also something that can set everyone in your organization alight when you’re talking about organizational purpose.
Purpose is not mission or vision. As detailed in this HBR article, purpose exists to inspire your staff to do good work for you, find a way to express the organization’s impact on the lives of customers, clients, students, patients — whomever you’re trying to serve. Make them feel it.
The evolution of mission into more purpose-ful organizations is illustrated in this article, showing how organizations transformed their business by focusing on helping first, and selling second. Mission statements are usually very insular, looking inward, and have the motivational power of going for a root canal. Purpose statements are simple (in plain English, not vision-speak) and focus on why you do what you do.
In a similar way, personal purpose needs to be a simple statement that gets to the why of all of your life, not just your work.
Your core values drive almost all of your behaviour. So what are they? If you can’t answer, you’re not alone. This exercise will help you discover your own core values, and what they mean to you.
Your values are single words or short statements that have emotional power for you. Words such as success, happiness, family, love, power, and serenity are values. The key to determining whether or not they are your values is in whether they are just ‘words’, or if they have some emotional meaning, or ‘kick’ for you.
Once you have a list of your core values, it’s important to rank them, as your values form a hierarchy, and it’s generally only the top 3-5 that drive you. The rest are important and often are related to the core values, but your core 3-5 values truly define you.
In order to determine your core values, you first need a list of values that are important to you, and then you need to prioritize them. This exercise will help you do this. You’ll need some paper, a pad of post-it notes, a blank wall or a clear table, and approximately 60 minutes.
Most exercises that help you sort your values actually fall short because they require you to think about which is more important than another. Values are emotional, not intellectual, and so, by ranking your values in such a way, you generally create a list of the values you think you should have, not the values you actually live by. Chrysalis’ processes get your head out of the way and uses your heart and your gut to identify your emotional hierarchy of values – your real values. We’ve had many people who do career counseling marvel at the power and effectiveness of this exercise in comparison to the versions they had previously used.
Identify 5 people (living or dead, real or fictional) who you admire/respect. For each one of them, identify the characteristics or actions that foster your admiration and respect. Then list the values that you feel they are living. Remember that values are single words (love, respect, power, etc.) or sometimes a couple of words that have a lot of emotional impact for you.
Write each value on a separate post-it note (ie: if you have 20 discrete values, you will have 20 post-its, each with one value on it; if you had 7 values, you will have 7 post-its, etc.). Put the put the post-it notes up on a blank wall in a random order (You can use a clear table, or the floor instead of a wall as well).
What you need to realize is that the reason that you admire or respect these people with these values is because these values are important to you as well. If there are additional values you feel are important, you can add them to the ones you’re working with – give each one a separate post-it note.
Now it’s time to sort them. Remember, values are emotional, not intellectual, so what you think your values should be isn’t relevant. It’s what feels right that’s important. In making the decisions below, go with your first gut instinct, not with what you think should be the ‘right’ choice. Make each decision very quickly. Don’t stop to think and anal-yze what you’re doing. Doing so means losing touch with what really motivates you.
Take two post-it notes at random (each with one value on them). Get a sense of the feeling of each value – what each means to you. Ask yourself which one has more power or energy for you, and go with what feels more powerful, or whichever one pulls you more. Put these two in a separate part of the wall/table/floor in a vertical line. Place the more powerful value above the weaker one. For these two values, the top one will be your number one value, and the bottom one will be your number two value.
Then pick another value/post-it, selected at random, and compare it to your bottom (#2) value, and ask yourself the same question – which one has more power/energy for you? Whichever one has less power is now placed at the bottom of these three post-it notes. If the old number 2 value is more powerful than the new value, then the new value goes below number 2 and becomes your number 3 value.
If, however, the new value is more powerful than the number 2 value, the old number 2 value is moved down to the number 3 spot. You then have an additional step to take. Ask yourself, if you were to take the feeling of your number one value, and the feeling of your new value, which has more power for you? Whichever one has more power gets put at the top. If your number one value is more powerful, then the new value (the third post-it you got) would be your new number 2 value. If the new post-it value turns out to be stronger, then it becomes your new number one value. The old number one value is now your number 2 value, and the old number 2 value is now your number 3 value.
So you now have 3 values listed in a vertical line, with the most important at the top, your number 2 value in the middle, and the least important at the bottom.
Now take another value at random from the other post-its. Compare this fourth value with your lowest-ranked value (number 3). If this new value is weaker than the lowest, put it below all three, and it becomes number four. If it’s stronger than the lowest value, then you move it above that one, and compare it with the number two value. If it’s weaker than your number two, then this new value becomes your new number three value. If it’s stronger than your number two value, then you now move it up and compare it with your number one value. If it’s weaker than your number one value, then this new value is your new number two value. If it’s stronger, this new value now becomes your number one value.
Now you have four values in a vertical line, with your most important value at the top, your number two value below that, followed by your number three value, and your number four value at the bottom.
Continue this process with each of the post-it notes one at a time, until you have them all in one vertical line, with your most powerful value at the top and your weakest value at the bottom. Each time, compare only two values at a time, and always go with the feeling of what’s strongest, not with what you think should be stronger.
At the end, you will have all the values in order in a vertical line, with your most important value at the top and your least important value at the bottom.
Pull out the top 3-5 values (whichever number feels right for you). These are your core values.
To better understand them, remove all the post-it notes. Now place each of the post-its with your core values on a separate area of the table/wall/floor (keep lots of space around each). Now, look at each of the other values you listed, one at a time, and put each one by the core value that best relates to it. If one or two don’t fit anywhere, then that’s fine.
What you’re doing is clustering all the values you listed around your core values to better define them. You’ll wind up with 3-5 clusters of post-it notes around each of your core values.
Once you have these, I suggest journal around each of these clusters to better understand what they mean and why they are important to you. If journaling doesn’t work for you, discuss your results with a friend who knows you well. As you reflect, I suspect you will find that understanding these values will help you understand your behaviour in different situations. They may also help you understand how to better manage challenges you will be facing in the future.
Many companies create corporate values statements and build pretty plaques with them on the wall – and then proceed to totally ignore them and do what they please.
The values of an organization aren’t what you see on the pretty plaque on the wall – they’re what you see walking down the hall.
And the reality is that your values exist, whether you believe in them or not. Values drive behaviour, and consistent behaviour patterns show consistent values at work – you can actually ‘reverse-engineer‘ values based on the regular behaviours in an organization. Most employees can tell you what type of values they see lived every single day in their workplace.
Simply put, your values (corporate or personal) are determined by where you invest your money and your time. If you don’t invest in your people, saying ‘people are first’ doesn’t really mean anything, does it?
If your senior managers are brusque and rude to employees, do you really live the value of ‘respect’?
If you punish people for making mistakes (the only thing you’re guaranteed if you’re experimenting and taking chances), you can’t claim ‘innovation’ as a value because you’re killing it with your actions.
Why is this important? Well, in the emerging labour shortage as baby boomers retire, we have to recruit younger workers and millenials shop for employment based on values. They look for coaches and mentors and collaborative workplaces, and they can discover your values without stepping foot in your business thanks to the joys of social media. People talk about the good, bad and ugly of their workplaces, and what they don’t say is as important as what they do.
If you want to sculpt your future, then you need to craft powerful values that guide you on the path – and live by them.
Living by values takes work – and it’s more than some pretty words on a pretty plaque. In far too many organizations the only reaction employees have to the pretty plaques on the wall, if they every notice them at all, is to roll their eyes because they know the company doesn’t live by them.
When I work with organizations to help them define the principles or values they want to live by, I drill down and have them spell out the behaviours you would see from those values so that everyone knows what’s expected of them – and then I challenge them to sign off on those.
Then it needs to be an ongoing discussion. Situations will arise that challenge those values and people need to be able to talk about how they worked, when they were followed, and when they weren’t. They need to be able to be frank and honest when these are being lived – or not – with everyone in the organization up to the CEO and be able to discuss what’s working or not.
Only in this way can these values be internalized and concretized as part of the culture of the organization.
If you and your people are to align with corporate values, you need some clarity on what your personal values are, and the truth is that most people don’t (consciously) know what their personal values are. In the next blog post I’ll share with you a simple exercise for determining what they are.
How often, when you make a choice in your life, whether in work or in life, do you get a ‘Hell, yeah!’ feeling inside about taking that action? Or is it another case of ‘Meh!’?
When you make decisions, do you do what’s expected, what’s easiest or just what you need to get by? Do you choose the lesser of several evils? Or do you make a choice that fills you with excitement, trepidation and the thrill of going forward?
In this article, which I go back to every once in a while, Derek Sivers advocates that if you don’t get a ‘Hell, Yeah!’ about a choice, you shouldn’t make it. It should be a ‘no’. No more ‘yes, I’ll do this.’
Sivers cites the book Personal Development for Smart People. In this book they ask you to rate your satisfaction with each area of your life, on a scale from 1 to 10. Then it tells you to replace any area that you rated 8 or less with a ‘1’.
Simply put, we rationalize away those areas of our life that we’re not passionate about by saying that ‘it’s not so bad’. Far too many of us settle – in work and in life – because things are so crazy busy that it’s just too much effort to change.
Why do you think it’s so busy? Because you’ve said ‘yes’ to so many things that you feel ‘Meh’ about. I love that word – Meh! Anything that’s Meh! I say ‘no’ to.
Life’s simply too short for any ‘Meh!’
On your deathbed, do you want to look back on decades of ‘Meh!’ or a life of ‘Hell, Yeah?’
I know what many of you are saying – that’s it’s not practical to do just what you enjoy. You have responsibilities, both at work and with your families and other commitments. I get the same initial response from most of my coaching clients.
Then we go back to basics – to connect them with the source of their passion and motivation – their inner sense of purpose. And then they re-sculpt their lives from that place.
Once they’ve connected with their inner raison d’etre – their inner passion, purpose and motivation, it’s amazing how fast the ‘Meh!’ disappears from their lives – how much that they would have said they couldn’t let go of disappears – and how quickly their life transforms.
How much in your life is ‘Hell, Yeah!’?
How you respond to someone – each and every day – determines the long-term health of your relationship with them.
How many of your work relationships and personal relationships invigorate you and leave you feeling light – and how many drain you and feel incredibly heavy? It all comes down to your everyday responses and reactions.
This article about relationships from the Atlantic was reprinted in Business Insider, and that made me think – even though this is about your relationship with your spouse, the same principle applies to any relationship, including work relationships.
One of the key findings cited is that the difference between marriages that last in a healthy way (the masters) versus those that don’t (the disasters) comes from the conditioned response that the two people in the relationship have to each other. The masters have a very calm conditioned response to their partner, whereas the history between the people in the disaster relationships has created a fight-or-flight response in them – simply being around their partner puts them in that survival mode – and it’s no wonder that those relationships are disasters.
What creates those responses – calm and serene versus fight-or-flight – are all of the interactions over time. Are you supportive, kind and responsive to the other person, or are you judgemental, critical or sarcastic – as a rule of thumb. Over time, those responses build into conditioned responses (Pavlov’s dog, anyone?).
Think about the relationship in your life – both at work and personal. Which ones make you smile and feel light? And which ones drain you and make you dread seeing the other person. I’ll bet that the difference between the two is what I outlined above – how the two of you respond to each other on a daily basis.
And guess who controls that? Or at least 50% of that? If you want to Successgineer healthy relationships at work and at home, how can you invest and ‘fill the tank’ with positive reinforcement? And if the other person is not going to change and stay negative and critical – I firmly believe in firing friends who drain you. Not as a judgement on them – just to respect them and their choice to be that way – and to respect my right to not stay in that environment.
What if you’re in a work environment that has toxic relationships like that – and the people are determined not to change? Well, that’s your call, but personally, I wouldn’t stay in that space – I’d be looking for options.
Welcome. From this blog I’ll be sharing my thoughts with you about Successgineering your business, your events, and your life – using the systems, habits and processes that top performers do to consistently produce the results they want.